It’s Not The House That’s Haunted: Each Insidious Movie Ranked From Good to Classic

This weekend the latest – and maybe the last – installment of the Insidious franchise released into theaters. It’s been 12 years since the original Insidious debuted and about five years since the last sequel made it to cineplexes. But time apparently hasn’t sapped horror fans of their interest for the series. In an unexpected turn of events, Insidious: The Red Door won the weekend box office, beating out Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in that movie’s second weekend. Maybe the Insidious franchise isn’t over yet. Regardless it’s a good time to count down each Insidious movie, from the least to the best of the entries.

5 – Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man, Upgrade) were back for Insidious: Chapter 2. All of the cast, including Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, returned as well. And Insidious ended with a hell of a cliffhanger. Yet in spite of all of this continuity, Insidious: Chapter 2 feels like a tired, lackluster sequel straight out of the gate. Though it’s never a bad movie, it’s often a very boring one. One has to wonder whether Wan spent all his best scares on his other big horror hit from 2013 – The Conjuring. Yes, there are some decent jump scares scattered throughout Chapter 2. But there’s no standout set-piece and that feeling of constant dread is absent.

4 – Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

For Insidious: The Last Key, Whannel and Blumhouse double-downed on the prequel route, which wasn’t a bad idea. Fans loved Lin Shaye’s ‘Elise’ and the series could focus on the likely many investigations she undertook before The Lamberts. We even get something of an origin story wherein Elise confronts painful childhood memories while investigating a haunting in her old family home. Like Chapter 2, The Last Key is not a terrible movie; it’s certainly not as bad as its Tomatometer suggests. In fact, it’s a perfectly serviceable thriller that younger audiences will enjoy and more seasoned horror fans won’t mind spending 90 minutes watching. If anything, the sequel suggests that the franchise was running out of steam. Or was it?

3 – Insidious: The Red Door (2023)

Following two prequels focused on Lin Shaye’s ‘Elise Rainier’, the Lambert family returns to continue their story. For this sequel, series star Patrick Wilson got behind the camera to bring to life Scott Teems’ (Firestarter, Halloween Kills) story of an estranged father and son dragged back into The Further. On one hand, Wilson knows his way around a scary scene and delivers a few good ones. That MRI scan scene is an immediate standout. Yet once Insidious: The Red Door hits the homestretch, it quickly feels more than a bit unnecessary and like everyone’s just going through the motions. This is definitely a sequel where the parts are greater than the total sum.

2 – Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

With the Lambert family’s saga seemingly finished, but money still up on the table following a big box office haul, where else could the Insidious series go? Too early for a remake, writer Leigh Whannell penned up a prequel and got behind the camera to direct. Not a bad choice considering it meant Lin Shaye could return as demonologist Elise Rainier. More Lin Shaye in a horror movie is never a bad thing, and Elise was always one of the better parts of the first two movies. And the switch to a new family-in-peril allows Whannell to explore some fairly well fleshed-out themes that almost compensate for the dip in scares. Ultimately, Insidious: Chapter 3 sits between the original Chapter 2 – never as scary as the first time, it offers a noticeable improvement over the first sequel.

1 – Insidious (2010)

It’s almost always true – the first is usually the best. And the original Insidious isn’t just the best of the franchise. James Wan’s ‘haunted house’ thriller is a true horror class and among the best of its subgenre. Just about everything here works. Both Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne make for compelling, sympathetic protagonists. Not only does writer Leigh Whannell craft an intriguing mythology around The Further, he finds a clever workaround for the ‘why don’t they just leave’ problem. Most importantly, Insidious is consistently scary and tense. There are several high quality jumps, including one of the best jump scares in horror movie history. And the Lipstick-Face Demon remains one of the best monsters put on the screen.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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